The greatest time of the year is upon us. As the weather warms up, so does that spot in our heart for baseball. Spring Training has finally begun!
Thirty MLB teams now begin their preseason games knowing that in under a month, it finally counts again.
So if your favorite team's dreams were crushed last season, you once again have reason to hope. Embrace this chance because, come October, you may just have to wait another year.
Every year, right around this time, sportswriters around the globe make predictions about what is to come. While some often look stupid in the process, they may later be embraced as geniuses for their courageous picks that came true.
So without further ado, I give you a complete guide on everything you'll want to know for the upcoming season (American League Version).
1. New York Yankees: 102-60
The Yankees are the defending champs and the team to beat. The go into this season with a target on their backs. Everybody wants to beat them, but will anybody be able to do it? With a rotation consisting of C.C Sabathia, A.J Burnett, Andy Pettite, Javier Vazquez, and Joba Chamberlain/Phil Hughes and a nearly unstoppable offense, I'd say no.
2. Boston Red Sox: 92-70
The Sox have the best pitching rotation in baseball. It consists of three true aces: Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and John Lackey. If they could get into the playoffs with that rotation, I wouldn't want to play them. But the real question lies in their offense. Can Big Papi get back on track? If not who will step up? If the Sox get into the playoffs they'll be extremely dangerous, but will they make it?
3. Tampa Bay Rays: 86-76
The Rays have a great team, no doubt. However getting to the playoffs out of the AL East is no easy task. The Rays will be competitive again this year, but will just fall off at the end. If Rafael Soriano can prove a good closer for the Rays, then maybe they'll win a few more games. But until I see that, this is where they stand.
4. Baltimore Orioles: 79-83
The Orioles are a young team with a whole lot of talent. In a few years they could be one of baseball's elite teams. Brian Matusz, Jake Arietta and Chris Tillman could make up one of the game's best pitching trios in a few years. Not to mention All-Star Adam Jones, who is still young and Matt Wieters, the outstanding catching prospect. Things are looking up for the Orioles, and they'll only get better from here.
5. Toronto Blue Jays: 72-90
The Blue Jays will not be competitive this year. They weren't last season, and they lost their best player. However, like the Orioles, their future may include a rise in the standings as well. In the Roy Halladay deal, they picked up promising pitching prospect Kyle Drabeck and outfield prospect Michael Taylor. They also acquired 1B/3B Brett Wallace. Watch out for this team in a few years.
1. Minnesota Twins: 92-70
The Twins added Jim Thome and Orlando Hudson to an already dangerous lineup this offseason. The Twins won't win the World Series, but they'll make the playoffs. One of the key reasons to that is the fact that they haven't had that lights-out pitcher since Johan Santana left town. And until they get one, it's hard to see them going anywhere in the playoffs.
2. Detroit Tigers: 85-77
Detroit may have traded Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson this offseason, but they got suitable replacements for both. While Austin Jackson isn't on Granderson's level, at least he'll host a higher OBP so Miguel Cabrera has somebody to knock in. And as for Edwin Jackson, he very well might be coming off a career year. And the Tigers got highly touted young pitcher Max Scherzer. Add in signings of Jose Valverde and Johnny Damon and you've got a team that could surprise some people.
3. Kansas City Royals: 77-85
The Royals are getting better and better every year. They have an ace in Zach Greinke. They have guys like Billy Butler and Alex Gordon who are starting to look like legit MLB players. They will surprise people this year and will continue to improve in future years.
4. Chicago White Sox: 75-87
Oh boy, would Cub fans love this prediction. But I'm just not feeling the White Sox this year. Even with Jake Peavy going this year, I still feel that they're just not a good team, and people will soon realize that.
5. Cleveland Indians: 64-98
The Indians have baseball's worst rotation. They're expected to go with Jake Westbrook as their No. 1 starter. I wouldn't exactly call Westbrook No. 1 starter material. Just looking at that rotation gives you enough reason to believe that they'll be baseball's worst team.
1. Seattle Mariners: 94-68
The Seattle Mariners made huge strides this offseason. They acquired Cliff Lee to now give them pocket aces in Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee. They also brought in a big-time, top-of-the-lineup guy in Chone Figgins. Plus, they made a great decision in re-signing Erik Bedard. At $1.75 million, they made a good, low risk-high reward top signing because, if Bedard can stay healthy, the Mariners might have scored a third ace for the upcoming season.
2. Texas Rangers: 93-69 Wildcard
The Rangers, in my mind, are a team that will surprise a whole lot of people in winning the AL Wildcard. I mean, in a league that may have its three best teams in the AL East, you probably wouldn't expect the Rangers to win it. However, the Rangers always seem to have one of the league's best offenses, and this year will be no different. However, what will be different this year is that the pitching won't be upsetting to watch any more. They brought in Rich Harden to add to a young rotation of guys with great stuff. If Neftali Feliz is added to the rotation this year (one that already includes Rich Harden, Scott Feldman and Derrek Holand), this could be a team more dangerous than people think.
3. Anaheim Angels: 86-76
The balance of power is shifting in the AL West. The Angels, who have dominated the division of late, are taking a step backward, while the rest of the division takes one forward. They lost long-time run creator Chone Figgins and slugger Vlad Guerrero. Although they still have a great team and one of the league's best managers, I still don't think its enough any more to get by in the stacked American League.
5. Oakland Athletics: 75-87
Is Billy Beane slowly building another winning team? With promising young pitchers Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson, its starting to look like the same mold. They won't contend this year, but look for them as a dangerous team in years to come.
MVP: Joe Mauer
Cy Young: Felix Hernandez
Rookie of the Year: Neftali Feliz
Comeback Player of the Year: Grady Sizemore
Best Free Agent Signing: Chone Figgins 4 years, $36 million.
Best Trade: Mariners acquire Cliff Lee
ALDS: Yankees Defeat Rangers, 3-1
ALDS: Mariners Defeat Twins, 3-0
ALCS: Mariners Defeat Yankees, 4-3
Mariners win the pennant!
So there you have it. A complete preview of what's to come in the American League this season. Check back in a couple of days for the NL version.
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